Iran’s national football team has blanked Uzbekistan with two goals to be the second country that has booked tickets for the 2018 World Cup, scheduled to be held next summer in Russia.
Carlos Queiroz's squad secured their place in the 2018 World Cup after the Monday night match in a fully-packed Azadi Stadium in Tehran thanks to goals by Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi.
Unbeaten in eight qualifying games, Team Melli maintained the dominant position in Group A with a stunning 11th consecutive clean sheet on their way to their fifth World Cup appearance. Iran is the first Asian country that can start planning for the big event and second only to Brazil, which downed Paraguay last week to qualify for the tourney.
Team Melli’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz during the match against Uzbekistan at Tehran’s Azadi stadium
President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posted on their social media pages to express congratulations to all Iranians and appreciations to Team Melli players. In his twitter account, Rouhani congratulated the players on their “decisive advance” to the 2018 World Cup, and thanked them for “making all Iranians happy,” and Zarif posted a photo of cheerful Iranian fans in the stadium with a congratulatory caption.
Team Melli football players pose for a group photo during the 2018 World Cup qualifying football match with Uzbekistan at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on June 12, 2017.
Azmoun opened the scoring midway through the first half to put Team Melli in control. He received a sublime through ball behind the defense line from Alireza Jahanbakhsh and rolled the ball under goalkeeper Aleksandr Lobanov into the net.
Captain Masoud Shojaei could have doubled the lead early in the second half when Taremi was downed in the box and Iran was awarded a penalty spot-kick, which the midfielder squandered far over the bar.
In the dying minutes of the second half, Taremi found the ball inside the box, feinted past the Uzbek defenders and lobbed the ball low into the bottom corner to clinch the victory.